Southern Exposure

ON THE HOMEFRONT

SHOW US A local band that's not nearly as dumb as they let on, and we'll show you Hammerhead, the trio whose assaults are three parts aural and four parts mental. When these Fargo expatriates moved down here in '91, we imagined them as three quiet, dysfunctional teens out in the cold rural night, desperately trying to knock back every lonely corner of the big Dakota sky. It's a stereotype they seemed to give into with tongues in cheek on their early releases-- the backwoods themes of '93's Ethereal Killers, and the weird sci-fi concept behind '94's Into the Vortex. Not surprisingly, Hammerhead's third Amphetamine Reptile disc inevitably explores the urban realm, and is charmingly titled Duh, the Big City.

It's impossible to listen to Duh and ignore the fact that cofounding guitarist Paul Sanders left the group after recording it: Creative tension makes the disc explosive at times. The guitars are more incendiary than ever (we'll forego the ubiquitous Sonic Youth comparison--Hammerhead is on to something else); the vocals are thankfully refined (you'll even hear a harmony or two), and the lyrics cleverly harp on city slicker tragicomedy. Sanders role-plays a working drudge, screaming, "I work so hard/For television!" before retreating from the big city, and the band itself, in the title-track finale.

Sanders is reportedly working with Silver Salute's Mike Phillips (also a Fargoan) and Gnomes of Zurich drummer Matt Entsminger. Determined Hammerhead survivors Paul Erickson and Jeff Mooridian Jr. are catching raves on their current U.S. tour with new guitarist Craig Klaus (a London native and vet of Texas band Crown Roast). The homecoming gig-cum-Duh release party takes place Friday at 7th St. Entry; Silver Salute, Gnomes, and Trans Am open. $5. 8 p.m. Hammerhead will also perform at Garage D'Or Records, Friday at 4:30 p.m.

As for other new local sludge, Mickey Finn's self-titled sophomore disc marks seven years of underrated partnership between guitarist John Pucci and bassist Dana Cochrane. Mickey Finn builds on the promise of the band's 1993 debut, 3 on a Match, which is still one of the more exciting local noise rock discs; new songs incorporate a perplexing geometric equation that requires every long vocal or guitar hook to be repeated in industrial-strength multiples of four, which makes some songs a tad long (see "Just as They Predicted"). Mickey Finn's at its best, though, when exploiting its male-female vocals (which include those of new drummer Andrew Beccone). The spastic three-way attack is downright vexing on the literal "Sing Diaphragm Round Robin" and demented "Sister Kisser." But when Cochrane sings "I cannot be everything you want me to be" at the end of "Fake it for Now," she suddenly extracts more genuine emotion than the detached genre normally allows.

Back on the Amphetamine Reptilefront, the Minneapolis music exodus continues: AmRep publicist Mike Wolf is leaving to start an American office for New Zealand's amazing Flying Nun Records. Last Friday, Wolf happily confided that he's found his dream job with his dream label, and he'll spend a "brainwashing month" Down Under before setting up shop in dreamy Chapel Hill, N.C. alongside the Merge Records/Superchunk folks. Wolf is a survivor of defunct U of M radio station WMMR and First Ave.'s Club 241, and, more recently, Rev-105 and the Polar Bear Club. He brought to these institutions an exquisite underground taste that will be missed.

Lower-case act raintribe, fronted by ex-Paisley Park producer Michael Koppelman, performs at the Red Sea Thursday (333-1644); Tea and Sympathy open the 9 p.m. show to celebrate raintribe's CD, Ancient Spaceman, on the Bitstream Underground Recordings label, a new offshoot of the online service specializing in "alternative music distribution on modes such as the Internet." Out-of-towners gig of the week goes to The Wedding Present, performing with Butterglory Saturday at the Fine Line. The anarchic Presents have always run two or three steps ahead of their Britpop zeitgeist, and Butterglory's a Lawrence, Kansas band that just might renew your faith in Amerindie; their hit "Waiting on the Guns," from their new Mini Plus EP (Cooking Vinyl), even gets covered by The Wedding Present. The always-mutating creative venture that is Mountain Singers opens. 7 p.m.; $8/$10 at the door...

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